Sermon Title: Love God. Love People. But How?
Text: 1 John 4:7-21
Brief summary (what’s the point of this text/sermon?)
As you know, our theme for 2018 is Love God. Love People. Change the World. That’s easy enough to say, and it’s so obviously taught in Scripture that none of us would argue against its importance. But still, this question remains: we want to do it, but where do we find the motivation? We want to love God, but how do we? We want to love people, but sometimes that’s really hard, so how can we?
In other words, how do we do what we know is right, especially when it’s hard? How do we become people who instinctively love God and the people he created?
We’re planning to return to our theme monthly and emphasize a different aspect. Sunday we looked at John’s thoughts near the end of 1 John, the letter that’s all about love: love for God, love for people, love for our spiritual siblings. In this text he particularly emphasizes where our love for God and people comes from.
The summary statement is near the end: “We love because he first loved us” (v. 19). Why do we love God? Because he first loved us. Why do we love people? Because we’ve experienced his love for us.
God loves us unconditionally, and he loved us even when we were living in a state of rebellion against him. In fact, there’s nothing we can do to make him love us any more or any less. That’s incredible to realize.
Only when we realize that—and truly believe it from the depths of our hearts—will we be freed to love as we should. We’ll experience a deep and abiding love for him, and our hearts will be open to love people—all people, even (especially) the ones who are hard to love.
How do we love? Why do we love? Because he first loved us, and because he expresses that love so clearly and beautifully in the gift of his Son.
How do I live out the implications of this passage? (Discussion starters to help with applying the sermon to our lives)
- The main point of the sermon was this: “Our ability to love comes from our having first experienced true unconditional love.” Discuss how experiencing God’s love for us helps us love.
- God is infinitely worthy of our love, so why do we sometimes struggle to love him as he deserves to be loved?
- Hypothetical situation: two people experience similar mistreatment at the hands of an evil person. One of them extends love and forgiveness to the perpetrator, while the other extends only hatred and vengeance. What might explain the different responses?
- All of us believe that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16)—something emphasized repeatedly in 1 John 4 (vv. 9, 10, 11, 14). God expressed his love toward us by giving his Son on the cross. How do we as believers make that more than an intellectual conviction? In other words, how do we make it real to us? What daily/weekly/yearly practices might help the cross mean more to us?
- Because of our own selfishness, it’s sometimes even hard to extend unconditional love to the people closest to us (spouses, children, etc.). For example, we might love with “strings attached” (e.g., “do this or don’t do this and I’ll love you,” etc.). How does the love of God as expressed in the gift of Jesus Christ help us overcome our selfishness and extend true love to the people we’re close to?
- In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” How does the cross help us do that?